There are a few practices that are fundamental to ensuring the safe and efficient use of your home fireplace. Some of these practices are occasional. One of them, for instance, is annual – having your fireplace or wood stove and chimney inspected. Likewise, having your chimney professionally swept is routine, but also occasional.

There is one critical practice, however, that comes into play each and every time you build a fire in your wood burning system. That practice is using exclusively well-seasoned firewood.

What Is Seasoned Firewood?

When wood is newly cut it contains a high level of moisture, which can hinder the efficiency of combustion. The firewood can be hard to get started and will likely yield a smoky and sputtering fire before it really gets going. Because of inefficient burning and excessive smoke, it can also lead to accelerated creosote buildup in your chimney.

a pile of wood logs that are burning in a firebox

Seasoned firewood has been dried for months to reduce its moisture content to a level ideal for burning, typically between 15 – 20%.

Once your firewood reaches this peak seasoning window, it should be carefully stored. This will help ensure it doesn’t grow damp, and that it gets used before the more newly cut firewood on the stack.

Firewood that’s been properly seasoned, or cured, is one of the keys to successful and efficient burning, as well as more pleasant fires.

Signs Firewood Is Properly Seasoned

There are a number of indicators that wood is ready to be used in your fireplace. For instance:

  • Cracks and checks. As it dries, wood develops cracks or “checks” along its surface. These visible fissures create a texture which indicates that moisture content has reduced significantly, allowing the wood to burn more efficiently.
  • Light weight. Wood that’s been cut recently feels heavy due to the moisture it contains. Lift a piece of wood – if it feels relatively light for its size, it’s probably seasoned, or well on the way.
  • Hollow sound. While you’re lifting your firewood, consider trying another test. Strike two pieces of wood together, and note the sound they make. If wood is seasoned, you should hear a hollow knock, rather than a dull thud.
  • Faded color. Seasoned wood tends to have a faded, grayish appearance when contrasted to green wood, which is more vibrant in color. This color change is another indicator of dryness. While driftwood also has a bleached appearance, keep in mind that burning driftwood is not considered safe due to chemicals it may contain and release when burned.
  • Moisture Content. Moisture meters are really the best readily available tool for measuring moisture content – and they’re fairly inexpensive. You can use them to test firewood and obtain a quick, accurate reading on the moisture content of the wood. A reading of 20% or lower is the optimum level for your wood to burn efficiently.

What Is the Best Way To Store Firewood?

To help your firewood along the path from green to seasoned, split it to create more surface area. It’s normal for wood to take between six and twelve months to dry, depending on the type of wood and storage conditions. Harder woods will take more time to season than softwoods.

Proper storage will help maintain the quality of seasoned firewood. Some guidelines to follow include:

a pile of wood logs that are thrown on top of each and not well stacked with a forest in the background

✓ Elevated storage. Firewood should always be stored off the ground to prevent moisture being absorbed from the soil. This preserves the bottom layer of firewood against mildewing and disintegration. A raised platform or pallets work well for this purpose.

✓ Covered storage. Protect firewood from precipitation by storing it under a tarp or shelter. Leave the sides of the wood pile exposed, however. While you don’t want direct moisture on your woodpile, you do want to allow adequate airflow to the logs.

✓ Stacking density. Keeping ventilation in mind, you want to avoid tightly packing firewood. If there isn’t space for air circulation, moisture can become trapped and impede drying.

✓ Stack orientation. Stack firewood with cut ends facing out to promote speedier drying

✓ Location. Ample sunlight and airflow will encourage wood to stay clean and dry. Avoid dark, damp areas, and this can hinder the drying process and encourage mold growth.

How Long Can Firewood be Stored?

Like most things, firewood does have a shelf life. Thankfully, properly seasoned and stored firewood remains usefully for quite some time before disintegrating in quality.

Storage duration of firewood largely depends on a combination of factors. The type of wood, local climate conditions, and how well the firewood is seasoned and stored all play a role. Generally, you can expect that firewood can be stored for 12 months to 36 months before its quality begins to degrade. Oak, maple, and other hardwoods will last longer than softwoods, like pine or spruce.

When you’re grabbing firewood to build a fire, give your woodpile a once-over. Regularly inspect it for signs of decay, mold, or insect infestation. Be sure to use older wood before newer, and rotate your stockpile to make using the driest, highest-quality wood more convenient.

Need a Chimney Company Near Albany?

Seasoning and storing firewood play a significant role in the use and enjoyment of your fireplace. By employing a few simple habits, you’ll be playing your part in keeping your fireplace or wood stove burning efficiently and fires more cozy and enjoyable.

And if you need chimney services in the near future? Be sure to count on us – call or book online today.